Monday, March 4, 2024

China slump to spoil air travel boom

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TARGET SURPASSED The Philippines received more than 5.45 million tourists last year. About 26 percent came from South Korea, followed by the United States, Japan and Australia. Before the pandemic, China was the country’s biggest source of foreign tourists. —FILE PHOTO

The travel momentum propelling the aviation sector may be affected by the projected slowdown of China, which may stall international trips from the populous nation, once the top source of tourist arrivals in the Philippines, according to an Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) official.

AsBAA vice chair Maximillian Motschmann, in an interview with Inquirer, expressed some concern about the world’s second-largest economy dealing with weak spending and a property crisis, among others, as these could discourage foreign travels.

The World Bank estimates that China’s economic growth will decelerate to 4.5 percent this year from 5.2 percent in 2023. “[Prior to the] pandemic, the Chinese were one of the most frequent travelers worldwide. Right now, it is a bit stalled. Let’s see how the economy goes,” he said.

The economic superpower has seen a recovery of its domestic travel sector but its international flights have yet to catch up.

The International Air Transport Association reported that China’s 2023 domestic traffic had surpassed the prepandemic level by 7.1 percent. Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Administration of China projects that international flights will attain 80 percent of the 2019 levels by the end of this year.

China had been one of the top sources of international tourist arrivals in the Philippines until the pandemic hit, prompting the country to shut borders as a safety measure.

The Department of Tourism noted the country had received more than 5.45 million tourists last year, surpassing the 4.8-million target. About 26 percent of the tourist arrivals came from South Korea, followed by the United States, Japan and Australia.

Earlier, budget carrier Cebu Pacific also expressed worries about demand for flights in and out of China.

Xander Lao, president and chief commercial officer of the Gokongwei-led airline, previously told reporters they were delaying the restart of the Manila-Beijing route to October (from the first half) because demand “has been so soft.”

Lao said they were taking a “very deliberate approach on China” and closely monitoring their forward bookings to existing China routes.

Cebu Pacific has resumed flights to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Xiamen. Competitors Philippine Airlines and Air Asia Philippines have also reopened their China network following the easing of border restrictions. INQ

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